ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three Alaska Native corporations are making a high-profile splash into the competitive world of wireless telecommunications.
Doyon Ltd., Sealaska Corp. and Arctic Slope Regional Corp., in a joint venture called Alaska Native Wireless, made the highest bid -- $459.6 million -- Thursday in a U.S. government auction of wireless licenses, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Alaska Native Wireless also topped the bidding Wednesday, beating out 87 other companies, according to Reuters news service.
The FCC gives tribally owned companies and other small players, called designated entities, a 25 percent bid credit on wireless licenses, said Conrad Bagne, chief operating officer of Arctic Slope.
The Fairbanks, Juneau and Barrow-based Native corporations joined telecommunications giant AT&T Corp. to form the start-up company, based in Anchorage.
''We linked ourselves up with a strong player,'' Bagne said.
On Dec. 12, the FCC began auctioning 422 licenses in 195 markets, including Boston, New York, the Carolinas, Seattle, western Montana, Oregon, Hawaii, Florida, the Southwest, parts of Texas and the Midwest, the Great Lakes region, and Interior and Southeast Alaska. The licenses will allow carriers to offer expanded mobile telephone service, high-speed Internet access and the next generation of wireless products.
The auction, expected to conclude after the new year, could bring the Treasury $5 billion to $20 billion, according to Wall Street estimates.
Alaska Native Wireless was formed this fall to bid in the FCC auction. The joint venture is a reaction, in part, to Cook Inlet Region Inc.'s early success in the wireless industry, Doyon chairman Mike Irwin said in a recent interview.
CIRI and VoiceStream also won a $72 million bid in the FCC auction this week, according to the FCC.
AT&T owns 40 percent of Alaska Native Wireless. The three Native corporations own much of the remaining 60 percent, Bagne said.
He would not disclose how much the Native corporations have invested in the joint venture.
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